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#15thnBurungIndonesia*: Restoring the Last Lowland Forest in Sumatra Island

Biodiversity in the forest is a livelihood source for humans. Forests have become kitchens for providing food ingredients, natural pharmacies as a source of medicines, and warehouses for supporting economic supplies for people living around forests. However, the rate of destruction and shrinkage of forest cover, especially in production forest areas, continues mainly due to illegal logging and forest conversion. Humans are not the only ones harmed; it also impacts the habitat loss and the threat of biodiversity.

Damaged ecosystems are a real threat in Sumatra. The glory of the island, which in the classical history of the Indians called Swarnadwipa, or the Golden Island, is fading due to production forest overexploitation. A study in 2000 stated that the Sumatran lowland forests, which are rich in biodiversity, will soon be over without rescue action.

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Following the study, Burung Indonesia stepped in to encourage conservation efforts in the last lowland forest through ecosystem restoration concept. At first, the idea was considered utopian because the production forest industry is the second largest foreign exchange earner for Indonesia, while ecosystem restoration concept is polar opposite and contra productive to forest production.

In the beginning, the ecosystem restoration concept was unpopular. However, the large number of natural forests in Indonesia that are not included in the conservation area network has caused many parties to consider implementing this idea. Overexploitation of production forests has led to the loss of natural forest cover, whereas not only humans who depend on forest sustainability, but also flora and fauna that have important environmental services for the preservation of nature in general.

NTFP (Rattan) at HRF_Aulia Erlangga_Burung IndonesiaA member of the indigenous people Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan harvests rattan, one of non-timber income source in Hutan Harapan (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Aulia Erlangga)

The concept of ecosystem restoration not only has an impact on changes in forest management patterns, but also in the paradigm of production forest exploitation. Burung Indonesia assesses production forests not only from how many tree stands can increase the country's foreign exchange, but alsofrom how much value the whole forest ecosystem can provide for the welfare of the community without destroying the environment, while protecting the biodiversity in it.

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Efforts to contain the rate of deforestation in natural production forest areas through an ecosystem restoration approach are an alternative to forest management in the country. As a result, forests that were previously threatened with degradation can re-function as ecosystem balancers, while providing important products for communities.

Issuance of IUPHHK-RE and the establishment of Hutan Harapan

Ecosystem restoration is a conservation approach that seeks to return biological (flora and fauna) and non-biological elements (soil, climate, and topography) of an area to its original ecosystem or initial form. This innovative approach initiated by Burung Indonesia is present as an alternative in the management of production forest products in the country in order to prioritize the use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs).

Through various efforts, Burung Indonesia and related parties have succeeded in encouraging the government to issue Minister of Forestry Regulation Number SK/159/MenhutII/2004 concerning Ecosystem Restoration in Production Forests, and Minister of Forestry Regulation Number P.18/Menhut-II/2004 concerning Criteria for Production Forests That Can Be Granted Business Permits for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products in Natural Forests with Ecosystem Restoration Activities. The two regulations are then under the umbrella of Government Regulation No. 6 of 2007 concerning Forest Management and Preparation of Forest Management Plans, and Forest Utilization.

Lake beside Main Camp at Hutan Harapan_Ardi Wijaya-Hutan HarapanA lake in Hutan Harapan Camp area (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Ardi Wijaya)

The issuance of this regulation allows ecosystem restoration activities to take place in production forests through a business permit for the use of ecosystem restoration timber forest products (the Timber Forest Product Utilization Business License-Ecosystem Restoration/also known as IUPHHK-RE). A year after the regulation issuance, the Minister of Forestry designated an area of approximately 100,000 hectares in the Jambi Province and South Sumatra Province as restoration areas. The resistance to deforestation in the last lowland forest on the island of Sumatra through the first restoration forest in Indonesia had begun. Later, the area was known as Hutan Harapan.

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The process of determining Hutan Harapan was complicated because production forest concessions must be managed by a legal entity. But Burung Indonesia continued the efforts. In cooperation with BirdLife International and RSPB, two conservation-engaged NGOs, Burung Indonesia established the Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Indonesia (Yakehi).

PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (PT REKI) was later established as an area management company, which officially owns the first IUPHHK-RE in Indonesia. In 2007, the production forest area managed by PT REKI was 52,170 hectares, located in South Sumatra Province. Three years later, PT REKI managed to obtain the same permit for an area of 46,385 hectares in Jambi Province. This unitary area later became the Hutan Harapan. The establishment of the restoration area has brought not only the hope of healthy forest ecosystems and increasingly rich biodiversity, but also encouraged the spirit to make every effort to make that wish come true.


The publication of this article is part of a series of publications celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Burung Indonesia. On every 15th of every month in 2017, we will publish various articles about the best achievements that Burung Indonesia has achieved during 15 years of working at the home for 1769 bird species: Indonesia.